#wyrdandwonder: Can’t Wait Wednesday: The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark


Wyrd and Wonder – a month long event that is a celebration of fantasy.  Check out the details here and join in the fun in whatever way you would like to do so.

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking Can't waitthe Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week the book I can’t wait for is: The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark.

This series is fantastic, I’m loving Anna Smith Spark’s style of writing, it’s really quite something.  Anyway, The House of Sacrifice is, I think, due for publication either end of July or beginning of August and here are the covers and details:

Marith’s power is growing. His empire stretches across half the world, and allies are flocking to his banner to share the spoils of war. With Thalia ruling at his side they are unstoppable.

But Marith is become increasingly mentally unstable and their victories cannot continue forever.

Here are my reviews for The Court of Broken Knives and The Tower of Living and Dying.



The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2) by Anna Smith Spark

Thetower2Having just finished The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark I can say with absolute confidence that not only was this a fantastic sequel to an impressive debut but it’s a definite contender for one of my best reads of the year so far.  While the Court of Broken Knives delivered an unexpected novel in terms of the author’s own unique brand of writing, the Tower of Living and Dying cemented for me the love for that particular style.  If the final episode delivers a worthy conclusion to the Empires of Dust then I truly believe this series could become a modern classic.  Seriously, if you love to read fantasy, and in particular grimdark fantasy, then you really need to read these books – I insist.  Please, even.

Before I go further, first things first.  You will need to read book one in the series.  My review is here.  Also, it is possible, although I do try to avoid them, that some spoilers may be lurking here for the first book.  You’ve been warned.

So, I’m literally sat, staring into the abyss (aka computer screen), just trying to figure out what to tell you.  I do find that sometimes the books I love are the most difficult to review.

Okay.  The writing first and foremost. It’s different than anything I’ve experienced before and I admit that in the first book, for the first few chapters, I found it a little difficult to get along with.  Probably because it’s so unlike anything that I’ve read before.  There’s a simplicity here, a curtailing of long sentences combined with an alchemy of words that makes this a beautifully told story.  The imagery is just startling and sometimes breathtaking.  I wish that I’d slowed my own reading pace and thought to make more notes so that I could share some quotes but as with all my favourite books I was gripped in a reading fervour and all rational or sensible thoughts were dashed on the altar of good intentions.  There’s something about the writing that feels almost like a stream of consciousness or almost like a person babbling excitedly and there’s something infectious about it that simply draws you in, it’s just packed with emotion.  And, it’s like a gingerbread house, it will tempt you in with the promise of sweets and cake and once you’ve entered inside the trap is sprung and the honeyed words will belie the bloodshed and war that you find yourself reading about.

The characters.  Well, the four main characters from the first book are all still present.  They’re a little bit more weary which isn’t a surprise given the amount of death and destruction they’ve seen but they all have a purpose.  What I loved about these characters this time is they’re all so conflicted.  Marith is in serious danger of losing himself completely.  His relationship with Thalia is the only thing that keeps his inner demons from completely dominating.  He kills and destroys wantonly but then frets enough to seek the bottom of a bottle or worse.  Thalia, well she feels like a ray of light, a little spot of hope and yet at the same time she is also twisted with doubt and not a little bit of guilt.  She knows Marith and sees what he is capable of, she feels like he must be stopped, but at the same time he’s shown her a different life to the one she expected.  The other two characters are no less riddled by doubts and uncertainties.

In terms of the world building.  We certainly see a lot more of the world in this instalment. A lot of it is of course in the throes of destruction as Marith marches relentlessly forward with his army but nonetheless this area of the story felt much stronger.  This is a ruthless and unforgiving world in which to live but if Marith succeeds in dominating it the consequences don’t bear thinking about.  God like creatures roam the land and soaring dragons rule the skies.  A world of magic and myth.

I’m not really going to discuss the plot because I don’t want to give anything away.  I will say that these four storylines all develop into tantalising threads – all highly readable in their own rights and all bursting with the expectation of so much more yet to come.

But, a word of caution, make no mistake about it this book is grim and bloody and if that doesn’t work for you then no amount of poetic prose will glamour what’s really taking place here.  For me Anna Smith Spark has truly earned her ‘queen of grimdark’ title.  She’s unflinchingly brutal, has a unique style of writing that is cunningly succinct and disturbingly on point and she’s definitely one to keep an eye on.  I’d like to say that here is an author writing at the top of her game and yet as this is only her second novel that feels a bit premature because surely she has much more promise yet to deliver and I can’t wait to read more.

Write. Write. Write, I beg you.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalle, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.


Waiting on Wednesday : The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2) by Anna Smith Spark

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2) by Anna Smith Spark

A powerhouse story of bloodshed, ambition, and fate, The Tower of Living and Dying is a continuation of Anna Smith Spark’s brilliant Empires of Dust trilogy, which began with The Court of Broken Knives.

Marith has been a sellsword, a prince, a murderer, a demon, and dead. But something keeps bringing him back to life, and now there is nothing stopping him from taking back the throne that is rightfully his.

Thalia, the former high priestess, remains Marith’s only tenuous grasp to whatever goodness he has left. His left hand and his last source of light, Thalia still believes that the power that lies within him can be used for better ends. But as more forces gather beneath Marith’s banner, she can feel her influence slipping.

Read the second book in this “gritty and glorious!” (Miles Cameron) epic fantasy series reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence where the exiled son of a king fights to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.

Due for publication July/August 2018


“I don’t need a cloak to become invisible.”


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

My what big teeth you have’ – a cover featuring a cloaked figure 

I don’t imagine that anybody would struggle to find a suitable book for this week’s themes (cloaks in fantasy are like sprinkles on donuts).  My book this week is Anna Smith Spark’s The Court of Broken Knives.  A very impressive first book in the Empires of Dust series:

I like both of these, the second has a sense of anarchy which is well suited to the book but my favourite is the starkness portrayed by the first:


Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover that is retro

Future themes:

16th February – ‘Groovy baby’ – a cover that is: Retro

23rd February – “There are too many steps in this castle, and it seems to me they add a few every night, just to vex me”  – a cover featuring a staircase

2nd March – ‘The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing’ – a cover featuring something from Greek mythology

9th March – ‘…but Icarus flew too close’ – a cover featuring the Sun

16th March – ‘I got no strings to hold me down’ – a cover featuring a doll or puppet

23rd March – “When she was a child, the witch locked her away in a tower that had neither doors nor stairs.” – a cover featuring a Tower

30th March – ‘A little soil to make it grow’ – a cover featuring seeds/spores

6th April –  “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” – a cover featuring a family

13th April – ‘lawns and rocks and heather and different sorts of trees, lay spread out below them, the river winding through it’ –  a cover featuring a panorama

20th April – Where there’s fire there’s… – a cover featuring smoke

27th April – ‘Those darling byegone times… with their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful places of torture’ – a cover that is positively mediaeval 

4th May-  ‘A Hand without a hand? A bad jape, sister.’ – a cover featuring a hand/hands

11th May – ‘Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth’ – a cover featuring a dinosaur/s

18th May – ‘Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;’ – a cover featuring a gravestone

25th May – Trip trap, trip trap, trip trap – a cover featuring footsteps

1st June – clinging and invasive – a cover featuring creeping vines

8th June – Raining Cats and Dogs – a cover featuring a stormy sky

The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) by Anna Smith Spark

I must say from the outset that The Court of Broken Knives is an impressive debut novel and that Anna Smith Spark has a unique way of spinning a tale that twists and turns as it travels around this world she has created.

The story begins with a vicious battle on a blood soaked field and has a chaotic, almost hypnotic quality.  I must confess that I had to read this twice because I wanted to understand the battle, who was fighting who and, more importantly, why, but I don’t really that that was the purpose.  What this opening really left me with was an overwhelming sense of destruction, almost without purpose, almost casual and cruel.  The deaths on either side purely incidental as though nothing mattered other than the conquering.

I must admit that at first I did wonder whether the entire novel was going to be blood and guts but after this opening gambit the author then sets about introducing a number of different characters and giving us a glimpse into their respective worlds until their paths eventually cross.  That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty more fighting along the way but more that it’s not an incessant battering of bloodshed.

To be honest, I don’t really want to elaborate on the plot too much because I think that the author has contrived a story that is as slippery eels.  She takes you so far along until you think you’re getting comfortable, maybe even smugly thinking you know what’s going on and then everything goes arse over tit and you’re left scratching your head a little bit in wonder because it really isn’t what you expected, it’s like you’ve just been thrown from your horse and you’re scrambling around with the stirrups trying to get back in the saddle.

The Court of Knives has four distinct characters whose stories help to shine a light on the world explored here.  Basically, we have a priestess, a politician, a toughened mercenary and a young recruit.  Their stories are all linked and as we set out we pick up with the band of mercenaries crossing the parched and dusty deserts to reach the City of Sorlost.  They’re mostly a ribald bunch of characters aside from one young man, Marith, who keeps himself somewhat remote from the others.  We then jump to Sorlost to make the acquaintance of the scheming politician, of course he’s only scheming because he wants change and his plans of assassination will certainly be the catalyst for that.  The final POV is that of the priestess.  A young woman, the highest in her order, whose role it is to carry out the most important duties – those of sacrifice.  This is an unusual religion which seems to be based on maintaining a fine balance between life and death.

The strange thing about all of the characters is that although they’re all strangely compelling to read about with their imperfections and dark thoughts, none of them are easy to like, and even reading further on doesn’t change that too much.  I sometimes find it difficult to really get into a book if I don’t like the characters and yet this read was slightly different in that the author gives you this bunch of characters, that on the face of it you could be forgiven for thinking fit the usual tropes but she then seeks to peel off those comfortable outer layers exposing a completely unexpected inner core.  Its a bold step because rather than making you feel a connection to certain of the characters it could make you dislike them.  At the same time though the author throws in these sympathetic elements that serve to counterbalance those feelings and add complexity.

Added to this we have a rather huge empire, one with magic, mages, dragons and other mythical creatures.  To be honest these elements don’t play a massive driving force in the story, up to this point, but more colour in the background and add depth and there is definitely one element that will no doubt be explored further.

The author’s style is definitely quite unique and I confess it took me a little while to get used to.  There’s a succinct quality to the sentence structure, almost like a paring back of some elements but then in other ways a descriptive element that conjures a picture without being overly flowery.  Like I said, it took me a little while to get used to but once I did it felt perfectly natural.

I admit that I found this review difficult to write.  I didn’t want to give anything away about the plot, or the characters really, because when I thought about it it would be very easy to simply give everything away and I didn’t want to do that.

So, overall, an impressive debut, a number of schemes, a couple of twists, a lot of fighting, an unexpected romance (not overpowering) and although self-contained, an ending that leaves a lot of scope for the next book.  A story that feels like a journey, not just from ‘there’ and then ‘back again’ but a discovery of self.  I look forward to seeing where this story goes next.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


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